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EDITORIAL: Free advice on engaging government

By The CR Gazette Editorial Board –

Openness in government, as you would expect, is a subject near and dear to us. Last winter, The Gazette and several other newspapers contributed to a reporting project, coordinated by the Iowa Freedom of Information Council and Iowa Newspaper Association, about the state of openness in Iowa.

Since then, legislators have approved the state’s first public information board, which will provide information and arbitrate disputes about open records/open meetings laws. And now that winter project has led to a series of four FOI workshops to help Iowans understand and effectively use those laws.

We urge Iowans to attend one of the workshops — especially if you are among the 69 percent of Iowans who, in a scientific survey conducted for the FOI project, said they know little or nothing about our state’s open government laws, even though a similar percentage indicated access to government is very important.

“The People Have the Power: Making a Difference in Your Community” is an interactive 90-minute program on how to participate in local government meetings and obtain records. It also will review First Amendment rights and provide participants with a “tool kit for democracy” of resource material.

Gov. Terry Branstad and Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds support the program, and one or the other will attend each event. Iowa FOI director Kathleen Richardson will present the programs, assisted by knowledgeable veteran journalists.

Two of the four workshops are in our area:

l Sept. 6 — Dubuque, Loras College, Alumni Campus Center.

l Sept. 18 — Iowa City, Hotel Vetro.

These workshops are for you, Iowans. They’re free.

And investing 90 minutes into better understanding your government should be worth your time.

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